Much Ado about Magic by Shanna Swendson
Texan Katie Chandler is normal. She has no magical talents, but is immune to magic and can see through illusions. She returns to MSI in New York City to work in marketing. MSI is run by Merlin. Yes, that Merlin. Her boyfriend, Owen Chandler, is a sweet, shy, powerful wizard. A rival accuses Owen, who’s adopted, of having evil wizards as parents, and of causing the havoc in Manhattan that he stops. There’s a lot of humor with flying gargoyles, a clumsy fairy, magical illusions and spells, and her department’s constant partying while Katie’s trying to plan a big event in Central Park. Her roommates know her secret, and try to help when Owen and MSI are in trouble. Not your typical urban fantasy, it’s more of a romantic comedy with fantasy elements. This is book five in the series that begins with Enchanted, Inc. Read more about Katie on the author’s website. Book 6 is now available, and we own the whole series in print, and as e-books on Media on Demand.
Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
I really enjoyed reading this collection of stories inspired by the work of Jane Austen. There is a wide variety of settings, characters, and styles. A story by mystery author Stephanie Barron led me to the collection, and I was pleased to see stories by bestselling authors Adriana Trigiani, Lauren Willig, and Jo Beverley. In a few, Jane is a character, in others the main (or minor) characters from her books are featured. There are historical and contemporary settings, mystery, ghost stories, romance, and even adventure at sea, featuring Jane Austen’s brother as a character. In one story, Jane is haunted by her characters. If you like Regency romance, witty dialogue, or Jane Austen’s books, movies, or mini-series, you might enjoy this collection.
The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Sometimes I want something lighter to read, especially when I need an audiobook to listen to when I’m driving. Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s characters are very good company if you want a romance with some comedy. This is a companion book to Call Me Irresistible, and they can be read in any order. Lucy Jorik is the former president’s adopted daughter, and feels the need to live up to that responsibility. When she finds out at the last minute that she just can’t marry her perfect fiance, Ted Bodine, she panicks and runs away in a choir robe and heels. Wedding guest Patrick, who goes by Panda, gives her a ride on his motorcycle, and they end up on a road trip with Lucy in disguise to escape the press. Panda, although he wears offensive t-shirts, is very attractive and Lucy falls for him. Later, Lucy decides to track him down and ends up staying in his summer house on an island in Lake Michigan. She needs to do some writing for a book about her famous mother, but keeps getting sidetracked. We meet Bree, who has just become guardian to 12-year-old Toby, and is learning to keep bees, and local realtor Mike Moody, who Bree tries to avoid. When Panda, a security consultant, is hired by longtime client Temple, he brings the television diva to the island so she can lose weight while avoiding publicity. Lucy and Panda’s bickering, fighting their attraction, is very funny. Bree’s gradual realization that Mike is no longer the annoying boy she remembers is more heartwarming.
Readalikes for this book would include Jennifer Crusie, Janet Evanovich’s romantic comedies, and Elizabeth Adler.
Mistress of My Fate by Hallie Rubenhold
Miss Henrietta Ingerton has grown up in a life of privilege in 1780s London, but forever shadowed by her proud, selfish cousin, Lady Catherine. In a Mansfield Park-esque manner, Henrietta is timid, always bowing to the needs of her cousin, whom she desperately wants attention from, until the dashing Lord Allenham pays tribute to both girls. Henrietta and Lady Catherine both fall for him, but it comes out that Lord Allenham loves Henrietta, but cannot marry her, as she has no fortune. This comes to spell tragedy for the couple, but Allenham whispers a word to her that she will always remember: SURVIVE. So this tale is a first-person recollection of Henrietta’s survival so she can one day be reunited with her beloved, who mysteriously disappeared. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel–it has twists and turns, and feels a little like both Moll Flanders and Mansfield Park, rolled into one. The author is a Regency historian, which makes it quite fun for historical fiction lovers.
Reached by Ally Condie
Reached is the final book in the Matched trilogy. The Rising against the Society has begun, and Cassia, Ky, and, surprisingly, Xander are all working for the Rising. Ky is a pilot, Xander is a medic, and Cassia sorts, trades with the archivists, and starts an outdoor art/poetry gallery. Xander and Ky both love Cassis, which is no secret to readers of Matched and Crossed. Rarely together, the trio still work in concert to find a cure for the plague, which has mutated, and to search for their families. Cassia learns that she has lost memories from taking the Society’s red tablets, and struggles to remember a red garden day with her grandfather. The story is fast-paced, with lots of action, and reads quickly for a 500+ page book. There is often a question of who to trust, as well as the motives of the mysterious Pilot, leader of the Rising. A very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy; new readers will want to start with Matched, the beginning of this popular young adult series with crossover appeal for adults.
The Emperor’s Conspiracy by Michelle Diener
This is what good historical fiction should be! Take a little known conspiracy from history, weave in a fantastical storyline, add a pinch of Jane Austen Regency culture, and you have a heckuva good novel. The pace of this novel runs quickly as our heroine, Charlotte Raven, runs in both the Regency world and the underworld of London. Charlotte was born to the slums of London and disguised herself as a chimney sweep as a young girl, but a lady of good standing took pity on her and took her in as her ward. As an adult, Charlotte uncovers a dangerous plot that would smuggle England’s gold out of the country into Napoleon’s army, but Charlotte and young Lord Durnham, who works for the Crown, are racing to stop the smuggling before it gets too late. A fun and exciting novel–highly recommended!
Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, With Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Elizabeth is an American journalist living in England when she meets Gwendal at a conference. His hippy parents live in Brittany, but he’s a Ph.D. student living in a tiny studio apartment in Paris. The pair fall in love, Elizabeth moves to Paris, and feels like a fish out of water. The food is delicious, but the language barrier and culture differences make for a rough and lonely transition. Elizabeth is frustrated at the red tape that makes it difficult for her to work, learns that in Paris the customer is not always right and struggles as a freelance writer, while Gwendal is completely unambitious, although he’s the one who ends up visiting Hollywood. The meeting of Elizabeth’s Jewish mother and Gwendal’s mother is a great scene, and Elizabeth describes the people, settings, and food vividly. Eventually Elizabeth realizes that she can cook and write about food and life in France as a career and finally settles in, but not without losing a new family member. Many memorable meals are described, with recipes. Visit her blog for photos and more recipes. She comments that her husband hasn’t eaten hot food in three years because she’s always taking photos before serving meals. This book was published in 2010, but I missed hearing about it then; I’m happy my sister recently suggested that I read Lunch in Paris.
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
I really enjoyed reading this book (partly in print and partly on cd), and didn’t want it to end. This is the first book in Bujold’s science fiction series to feature Ivan Vorpatril, and is an excellent introduction to her writing. Adventure, humor, and romance are the main characteristics, along with memorable characters; the science fiction aspect is less emphasized, except for the setting.
Ivan is the cousin of the short, over-achieving Miles Vorkosigan, who has involved Ivan in several of his adventures, to Ivan’s regret. They are both cousins of Gregor Vorbarra, emperor of the planets Barrayar, Komarr, and Sergyar. Working as an admiral’s aide on Komarr, Ivan is approached by undercover agent Byerly Vorrutyer and asked to befriend a young woman who may be in danger. Tej Arqua resists Ivan’s flirting so he follow her home, where he is stunned by Tej’s sister Rish. After some complicated adventures, Ivan discovers that he’ll go to great lengths to protect Tej, and they end up back on Barrayar together, where their families have varying reactions to their relationship, and the Arqua family arrives to search for buried treasure, resulting in an underground search is both dangerous and funny. Komarr would be a good introduction to Miles Vorkosigan, while A Civil Campaign is a humorous look at Miles and Ivan.
Red Chamber, by Pauline Chen
18th Century Beijing, China comes to life in this retelling of the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber. Much of the book is set at the Rongguo mansion, owned by the Jia family. Lin Daiyu comes from the south of China to live with her uncle, cousins, and grandmother for a season. She meets her cousin Baoyu, the pampered son of the household, who is studying for exams, and Baoyu’s cousin Baochai, who befriends Daiyu. Baochai and Daiyu are both fond of Baoyu. Back in Beijing after caring for her father, Daiyu finds the atmosphere greatly changed, affected by family secrets, affairs, and marriage arrangements. Food, clothing, and daily life are all richly described, but some of the characters are not well developed, especially four young adult grandchildren of the family. The emperor’s death brings tragedy to the family, and some of the characters are disgraced, while others die from illness. This is not an especially happy book, but it is vividly written and memorable. Readers looking to immerse themselves in a different time and place will find this book hard to put down.